2012年12月7日金曜日

Fall color in Arashiyama, Kyoto


fallen leaves on the moss garden garden. The contrast is breathtaking.
I went to Kyoto to enjoy the scenes in brilliant fall color last weekend.  This time, I mainly visited Arashiyama and Sagano district, which is located west part of Kyoto, 20 minutes by train from the center.  The region used to be a resort for the noble in the Heian period (794~1185) . 

As you stand and look around on the Togetsukyo bridge (it means moon crossing bridge), which is an landmark of Arashiyama, you can easily imagine the way how Heian people appreciated the beauty of the nature in every season.  Floating a boat on the Katusra river, they must have adored autumn leaves and cherry blossoms, as well.

Arashiyama is also famous for the place where “the Ogura Anthology of One Hundred Tanka-poems by One Hundred Poets” was edited by Teika Fujiwara (1162-1241).  The poem bellow is the one that depicts how mesmerizing the fall color in Arashiyama is.

小倉山 峰のもみぢ葉こころあらば いまひとたびの みゆき待たなん

If the maple leaves
On Ogura mountain
Could only have hearts,
They would longingly await
The emperor's pilgrimage.

Fortunately, the maple leaves seemed to have hearts, and we were able to catch the last blaze of color.


Gio-ji
There are some beautiful temples in Arashiyama and my favorite one is Gio-ji, a Shingon Buddihism nunnery.  

In Heike-monogatari (the Tale of the Heike), there is a story that is related to this temple.  A Shirabyoshi dancer Gio was loved by Taira no Kiyomori but was dumped when he was attracted to another Shirabyoshi, Hotoke-Gozen.  Gio, her sister Ginyo and their mother Toji left Kiyomori and afterwards they entered a nunnery that is present day Gio-ji.  It was when Gio was 21 years old.

Sagagiku, a kind of chrysanthemum named after Saga emperor who loved this flower.

This is exactly a red carpet.

It’s a small temple, but fallen leaves on the moss garden are breathtaking.

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2012年12月4日火曜日

Photo manias


Right now, I’m hooked on taking photos.  It’s really fun to take a stroll around my neighborhood with my camera.  My pictures are record of my life and I enjoy shooting flowers, clouds, scenes, just about any every day occurrences.

When it comes to the result, my pictures are not as good as what I wanted to have.  Somebody might say; you’ll pick it up as you go along.  That’s true, but I hope it doesn’t take very long to be a skilled non-professional photographer.

Fortunately enough, I had this opportunity that dramatically improve my photo shooting skills by hanging out with some photo manias.  I enjoyed walking and shooting with some photo manias who are versed in both equipment and techniques.  It was very nice for me to see what kind of cameras they use, how they find their interesting objects and how they frame their images into their photos.  I’ve learned a lot from them.

Speaking about equipment, people prefer to use hi-spec cameras as they get more skillful. The cameras the photo manias own are obviously single-lens reflex.  Besides, most of them carry multiple lenses and use them apart depending on the image they pursue.  I’d like to think that good photographs don’t always come from a hi-spec camera, but I might as well buy a new one with a high caliber.

After the walk, we showed our best shot to each other.  We were at the same place at the same time and we all saw the same things, but we felt different ways.  It was exciting to know there are a variety of ways of perceiving this world.  That’s the real thrill of taking photos.  

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2012年11月24日土曜日

Photo Journal 小伝馬町から東日本橋、隅田川

小伝馬町から東日本橋、隅田川界隈をコンデジ片手にブラブラ歩いてきた。
小雨が降ったり止んだりの、あいにくのカメラ日和だけど、
こんなお天気だからこそ出会える風景もあったりして。



両国橋に近い船着き場。
川の水は、ここだけトロリと淀んでいるようだ。



下町の裏路地は、植木鉢園芸家のショールーム。
なぜか、大輪仕立ての菊に心ひかれる。
子供の頃は、おどろおどろしくて好きじゃなかったのに…。


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2012年11月16日金曜日

Becoming a monk in Laos


I met a young man who was just about to becoming a monk when I was walking around a temple in Vientiane.  A 29 year old man named Tony was busy setting up his ceremony, but noticed me and invited me to join his important ritual.  Cool!  It was a great experience for me.

According to some data, about 90% of people in Laos are Buddhists.  They are very faithful and most of men in Laos become a monk at least once in a lifetime.  The period varies from about a week to several years.

Becoming a monk means accumulating good deeds and a way of expressing their devotions to their parents in Laos.  I thought that staying in a temple is harsh for young people who are accustomed to the modern life style.  However, as long as I know, they seem to be very happy and proud of themselves.

In cities like Vientiane, the period is relatively short and Tony said that he was staying in the temple for a week.  However, people in older generation used to spend more time.  In rural areas, it’s even longer and some of them spend several years.  Temples used to be nursing homes and schools as well and children from poor families grew up there with enough food and good education.

Tony had his hair cut and changed his clothes from T-shirts to the white attire for the ceremony while his family members were decorating his closet with ornaments and offerings.  Food for a feast was already ready.  Tony and his leading monk moved forward just in front the main Buddha statue.

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2012年11月8日木曜日

Gardens by the Bay in Singapore


Where there is money, interesting architectures appear.  Singapore is no exception.  With the background of good economy, we can see a lot of unique buildings being built there.

“Gardens by the Bay” that was opened in June must be definitely a new landmark of Singapore.  When you step into the Marina area, you’ll be surprised to see huge shell-or-whale-like shaped glass wall domes.  They are two of the world’s largest column-less greenhouses.

The one, which is called “Flower Dome” is a conservatory, which is always kept cool and dry.  It collects plants from the Mediterranean and semi-arid subtropical regions like South Africa, California, Spain and Italy.  Some visitors might wonder; “Why do I have to see Mediterranean plants here in Singapore?”    That’s understandable.  But the air is always under-controlled so as to remain cool and dry for the regional plants it focused on.  Because of this we can take a comfortable stroll through the dome.

Another one is “Cloud Forest” that has completely the opposite atmosphere from “Flower Dome.”  You’ll be welcomed by the world’s tallest indoor waterfall and its splash at the entrance.  As you step into it, you’ll be drawn by a mysterious world veiled in mist.  I like this conservatory because it looks like an ancient primitive forest, which reminds me of Hayao Miyazaki’s anime.
Cloud Forest

The most outstanding garden in Gardens by the Bay would be “Supertree Glove.”  These baobab-tree-like shaped artificial trees are vertical gardens of 25 to 50 meters tall.  I took a stroll along the “Skayway,” a 128-metre long walkway that connects the two 25-metre Supertrees in the air and enjoyed the breathtaking view of the gardens.  It was quite fun but a bit scary because I felt as if I had been walking on a suspension bridge.
Supertrees and Skyway

These facilities showcase various plants for both educational and entertainment purposes.  They display the wonder of the nature in very artificial ways.  This contrast is quite Singaporean and I enjoyed it very much.

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2012年10月27日土曜日

Almost get lost in Singapore


I visited a good old friend of mine who is living in Singapore and enjoyed a few days off there with her.  She showed me around the city. 

Singapore is a very beautiful country as it’s called “Garden City,” but we had some problems.  Whenever she drove in newly developed area, which she was not familiar with, she got very frustrated.  She started complaining a lot about how the traffic guiding system there was useless.  I completely agree with her. 

Suppose we go to Marina Bay by car, which is a must-go place for tourists.  We’ll never get there just by following the traffic signboards.  There is no information on which neighborhood the road will take you to.  It just only the street name is printed.  And what is worse, the street names are quite confusing, for example, there are Marina avenue, Marina street, Marina road.

Beside, Singapore has a lot of one-way roads.  It’s surely effective for lessening traffic jam, but, on the contrary, we need to go an extra mile to finally get to our destination, which we can see very close by.  Once we take the wrong way, it seems that we would go away more and more from our destination.  As a result, we often ended up pulling over and asking taxi drivers for the directions which way we should go.  

Singapore is a country as small as Tokyo 23 wards.  I hear that they intentionally make street one way so that people can’t reach their destination quickly and they feel the land wider than it actually is, though I don’t know it’s true or not.  However, one thing’s for sure.  The city is planned as if it was a maze for visitors. 

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Photo: new Asia republic

2012年10月13日土曜日

Where do we come from?


Where do we come from?  What are we?  Where are we going to?
It’s a title of Paul Gauguin’s great masterpiece, but people must have thought the same thing when they were teenagers, or they do even now as an adult.  It seems to be an eternal theme of the human beings.

I still don’t have the foggiest idea about it, but I think that there might be something related to in and around the area I often visit.  Laos is one of my favorite countries and I think that the reason why I’m hooked on the nation is my nostalgia for something we Japanese already had lost.  However, there might be more to it than that.

There is a theory in cultural anthropology called “East Asian evergreen forest culture theory” that Kansuke Nakao and Koumei Sasaki advocated more than 45 years ago.  It explains that the major elements of Japanese traditional life and culture are also seen in Yunnan province and its adjacent areas, Eastern India, Nepal, Thai, Laos, Southern China and Taiwan.  In this theory, the area is called East Asian evergreen zone.


People in the zone share many customs and habits, for example, eating sticky rice, fermented foods such as natto and a kind of sushi, using urushi lacquer and growing cocoons for silk weaving.  And also, we can see some similariies in housing, clothing and more.

The more I get to know the theory, the more I’m interested in the area.  What I have seen in the villages of Laos is not just nostalgia, but it might be the things that have the same roots. 

photo: Laos Japan research & consulting

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2012年10月5日金曜日

The world largest fireworks display at Katakai


My summer has gone with thousands of sparkles of fireworks display and people’s prayers for their beloved ones.  This summer was very hot and long for me but I had a very good finale.

I went to Katakai in Niigata prefecture to see the world largest fireworks display.    Katakai’s fireworks display has 400 years of history and it’s known as the first place where they set off 3-shaku dama (90cm in diameter) fireworks.  Beside, in 1985, they successfully shot off a 4-shaku dama (120cm in diameter) fireworks for the very first time in the world.

I was amazed that they set off tons of shaku dama size fireworks back-to-back.  And my excitement went to the climax when I saw my dream 4-shaku dama fireworks at the end of the festival.  It lifted off higher and higher into the night sky and exploded with a huge sound that even shook the ground.  It was more like a rocket rather than fireworks.

What makes Katakai different from other fireworks display is not just how big the festival is.  A very unique thing of Katakai is that each firework is dedicated to the local shrine by residents with their variety of prayers.  Finance-wise, it is an independent event and village people themselves foot the bill.

Prayers may go to celebrate birth of a baby, marriage, longevity, or to commemorate family members.  There are announcements of their own message before setting up their fireworks.  It’s like this: Father, your grandson, Shota is now becoming 3 year old. He is a very good boy. We hope you watch his growth and the fireworks that we shoot with our love to you.

It’s very human and sometimes touching.  We looked up the sky, which illumination and people’s thought spread beautifully. 

They carefully set the world largest 4-shaku dama fireworks (1.2m in diameter, weight 420 kg)  into the iron tube, which is 5.2m.  



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2012年9月13日木曜日

Would Lao textiles become a savior for the kimono industry?


The other day, NHK broadcast a documentary film titled “Lao textiles for the Japanese kimono” in the news show “World Network.” It was a well-edited story that showed the whole process how people blaze a trail for Lao silk textiles in Japan.

I’m very happy to know that Japanese people have an opportunity to get to know wonderful Lao silk textiles. It seems that the effort made by people who were involved in the Kimono Project, a Japanese governmental organization set up, to boost exporting Lao textiles into Japan is paying off.

The kimono industry is like endangered spices. Nowadays, young women seldom wear a kimono and the number of manufactures is decreasing as well. Both demand and supply have been shrinking. In this critical situation, traditional Lao textiles are highlighted as a savior for Japan.

The characteristics of Lao textiles are delicate and elaborated patterns 100% handmade. The quality is very high and it would surely satisfy Japanese consumers’ demand. And, needless to say, their lower labor prices are attractive, too.

A kimono fan said; “The patterns of Lao textiles look exotic and I think it’s interesting to coordinate them with what I already have.” The textiles form Laos have already started attracting people. I hope that Lao textiles and the Japanese kimono industry have a happy win-win relationship.

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2012年8月31日金曜日

Bhutan and GNH




A friend of mine has just come back from his trip to Bhutan. I had an opportunity to see his slide show.

He entered Bhutan via the eastern part of India. Some photos showed a dramatic change of the atmosphere just after passing through the immigration gate. The roads on the Bhutan side are kept up neatly and the red roves of each house look beautifuly in the landscape. It’s like from chaos to harmony.

As you know, Bhutan is famous for GNH, Gross National Happiness. GNH is criteria that Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the 4th king of Bhutan, advocated as a counter concept against GNP, the materialistic world’s measurement. I think that the 4th king is a wonderful leader and a good branding planner as well.

I don’t know whether Bhutan people are the happiest in the world or not. Actually, a survey done by University of Leicester in 2006 told that the number 1 nation in the world was Denmark, (Bhutan was No.8.) though the result of the research doesn’t matter at all.

The important thing is that the leader showed the direction where the nation should go into both domestically and internationally with a few words. In addition, the words ended up uplifting people’s mind and giving them confidence and motivation to build the happiest country as the slogan said.

Do you remember a terrible slogan that a prime minister of one country said; “society of the least unhappiness”? I felt depressed whenever I heard it. A slogan should have some power to drive people and it should be made up of some positive words.

I think that Japan also needs some good words that light up the way we are going. We can’t work happily with “Ganbaro Nippon” or “We’ll get through this together” anymore.

photos: Tourism Council of Bhutan

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2012年8月26日日曜日

The Mingeikan Museum and a Li dynasty’s white pot


I went to The Mingeikan Museum, or The Japan Folk Craft Museum. It’s a small but very beautiful museum with a massive traditional Japanese structure. What brought me there was a Li dynasty’s white pot, which inspired Muneyoshi Yanagi (1889-1961), a founder of the museum, to advocate the fork art movement in Japan.

The pot was smaller than I imagined and I almost passed it. It didn’t seem to be an epoch-making item that made Yanagi create a new concept of the folk art. It was more like quiet and reserved. That’s all the more reason for getting bored looking at it.

Yamagi received the pot from Noritaka Asakawa in1941. Asakawa, who was both teaching in elementary school and studying sculpture in Seoul, got to know that Yanagi owned his favorite Lodin temporary. Then, Asakawa rushed to visit Yanagi to see the Lodin all the way from Seoul with the Korean pot as a gift to Yanagi.

Yanagi was deeply fascinated with the pot and since then, he really got into Korean porcelains. Finally, he found the beauty in common crafts that were made by anonymous craftsmen and called it Mingei. According to what he defined Mingei, it should be practical, anonymous, mass-productive, reasonable,skilled, regional, collaborated and traditional. To put it simply, it’s an artfor the people, by the people.

The spirit of Mingei is still living in modern era. Besides, it is strongly developing. I was convinced of it when I heard the news that Naoto Fukasawa, a successful products designer became the 5thdirector of The Mingeikan Museum. Maybe,many people know or use the products that Fukasawa designed in their daily life. Muji products and ±design products are some of them.


There is no doubt that Fukasawa’s motto of his design “super-normal” is rooted in the beauty that Yanagi found.

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2012年8月22日水曜日

八ヶ岳の夏

今日は気分を変えて、日本語です。ww

酷暑の東京を脱出して
標高1200mの八ヶ岳高原へやって来ました。
日差しはジリジリ刺すようですが、風はカラッと爽やかです。
「お〜い、雲よ!」
なんて叫びたくなる、空と大地しか見えない牧草地

湿度が低く、空気中の水蒸気が少なかったので
富士山をバッチリ望むことができました。
夏にこんなに鮮明に見えるのは、かなりラッキーなこと。 
いいことあるかも!?



この富士山は、山梨県側からの眺めなので、俗に「裏富士」とも言われます。
こちらに住んでいらっしゃる方からしたら、
「裏」とはなんと失礼な!ですよね。
静岡側からのフォルムと比べて、どちらが端正でしょうか?

写真には撮れませんでしたが、空にはトンボが乱舞していました。
高原には、早くも秋が訪れ始めています。

この暑い日々もあと少し!


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2012年8月17日金曜日

Sherlock


The Olympic games were over but I still have other interest in London. Do you know what? It’s Sherlock!!!
Sherlock is a BBC TV drama series that was broadcast on NHK BS. It’s a modern version of Conan Doyle’s “Sherlock Holmes” and the character portraits what Sherlock would be like if he was living in the 21st century.
In this series, Sherlock is a “consulting” detective. He is super smart and observes everything intensively like mechanical eyes to find any possible clue to solve any cases at a glance. At the same time, he is too self-confident, arrogant and what he does always bugs people, even staff members of the London police. Yes, he is obviously a problem person.
Even so, Sherlock seems very an attractive character and Benedict Cumberbatch acts modern Sherlock so nicely. I think that he successfully shows some aspects of Sherlock, such as talented, freaky, wild and childish. He is cut out for the role!
At the end of the latest season 2, Sherlock Holms disappeared suddenly. Is he dead or still alive? The last scene of the story left me some mysteries and disturbed my heart a lot. I’m dying to see the next episode for the show as soon as possible but the problem is that the shooting for the next season has not started yet in London! How long do I have to wait for it?
As I look for some information about next season’s episodes, I got totally hooked on Sherlock.


【additional】
Benedict Cumberbatch navigates BBC's Olympic opening coverage



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